29 February 2008

Skeptic-‘Woo’ wars: left vs right brain?

The 21st century has seen the return of right brain thinking after left brain dominance during the 20th.  Sceptics call this the age of endarkment.  Is it the opportunity to do joined up thinking?

 Left Brain, Right Brain by Dan Eden :

“There appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.

-Roger Sperry (1973)”
“The chart below will help illustrate the characteristics which are known to reside on each side of our brains.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies



uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Our personality can be thought of as a result of the degree to which these left and right brains interact, or, in some cases, do not interact. It is a simplification to identify “left brain” types who are very analytical and orderly. We likewise certainly know of the artistic, unpredictability and creativity of “right brain” types. But each of us draws upon specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions, depending on such things as our age, education and life experiences. The choices of which brain is in control of which situations is what forges our personalities and determines our character.

Experiments show that most children rank highly creative (right brain) before entering school. Because our educational systems place a higher value on left brain skills such as mathematics, logic and language than it does on drawing or using our imagination, only ten percent of these same children will rank highly creative by age 7. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only 2 percent of the population.

The War of the Brains The two brains not only see the world in vastly different ways but, in our current society, the left side just “doesn’t get” what the right side is all about. It tends to dismiss anything significant coming into consciousness from its “flaky” cranial twin. Sometimes two sides can actually disagree, resulting in our perception of emotional turmoil from the expressive protests of right brain. Our conscious mind can only focus on data from one brain at a time. We can switch from one side to the other very quickly (with our corpus collosum intact) but that’s not always the most efficient way to act and eventually ultimate authority to enter consciousness is delegated to one brain or the other. In our modern world, this battle is almost always won by the left brain.It appears that most people will never reach their maximum potential because of compromises that have been made between these two governing bodies. Sometimes skills which the right brain can perform better are routinely handled, with less skill, by the left brain. Ideally, both brains work together in people with optimum mental ability. This coordinating ability may be the key to superior intellectual abilities. In most people, however, the left brain takes control, choosing logic, reasoning and details over imagination, holistic thinking and artistic talent.”

28 February 2008

History of Homeopathy in Britain

An interesting article on the history of Homeopathy in Britain by the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis which also details some of the developments, changes in and disputes over prescribing approaches. Contemporary homeopaths are trained in choosing the appropriate prescribing approach for the patient and their symptoms:

“The Early Years
Homeopathy came to Britain relatively late. Although the Organon was published in 1810 it was not until 1832 that the first full time practitioner established himself in London. During this period many British aristocrats, such as the Marquess of Anglesey, and the Duke of Beaufort crossed the Channel for treatment by Hahnemann. Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV, was a patient of Dr. Stapf and was visited by him at Windsor Castle. A letter published in the Lancet in 1834 demonstrated the effect of the Queen’s interest upon Sir Henry Halford, President of the Royal College of Physicians and dubbed the ‘eel backed baronet’.

The Duke-Royal Homoeopthicism
Dear Dr. Turner,
I am exceedingly annoyed at the Queen’s not commanding my professional attendance, as it would give me an excellent opportunity of playing an important political game at this crisis. The last accounts I have received from the Pavilion mentions that her Majesty is still persevering in the homoeopathic system and she supposes she has derived advantage from it…
Her Majesty’s confidence in the absurd system arose from one of her maids being put under it when they were in Germany. Her brother, the Duke, sends her these invisible pills from Germany and they are such atoms that a quill filled with them lasts her Majesty a couple of months.
Her Majesty has also an extraordinary bottle which she smells whenever she wants a movement in her royal bowels and my correspondent tells me that the effect of smelling the bottle is so immediate that her Majesty is obliged to leave the room at a moments notice
[Lancet: vol1, 1834-5, p359]

Homoeopathy became increasingly popular among the upper classes and pressure grew for a suitable doctor to be available in London. Dr. Frederic Hervey Foster Quin was practising in Naples when Dr. Neckar in Rome first introduced him to the method. He became physician to Prince Leopold, later King of the Belgians but Quin left his service after two years to study with Hahnemann. His aristocratic friends and patients wrote regularly to him, asking him to move to London, which he finally did in 1832.

Quin’s parentage is unknown but he had the entree to all the great houses and numbered royalty, and aristocrats among his friends and patients, as well as Dickens, Landseer and many others from artistic society. Inevitably his practice was at first restricted to the upper classes. He tried unsuccessfully to open a dispensary for the poor but after that concentrated upon the foundation of a hospital. He formed the British Homeopathic Association, a lay/medical society to collect the necessary funds. The hospital was eventually opened in 1850 in Golden Square, Soho, London.

Opposition to homoeopathy was marked from the moment of Quin’s arrival. The Royal College of Physicians had the ancient power to control all medical practice within seven miles of the City of London, although it had not exercised this right for a century. It called upon Quin, an Edinburgh graduate, to take the college examination. He ignored the summons and eventually the College lost its nerve and desisted. But he was not forgotten. When he was proposed for membership of the Athenaeum, an exclusive gentlemens’ club, the then President of the RCP publicly called him a quack. This slur was only retracted on pain of a duel, but the College still mobilised its supporters to ensure that Quin was blackballed.

In 1844 Quin formed the British Homoeopathic Society, the forerunner of the present Faculty, with the half dozen homoeopathic doctors then in the country. It was this society that was attacked in its turn by the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, later the BMA. Membership was forbidden to all homoeopathic doctors and members of the PMSA were not to co-operate in any way with homoeopaths.

Unfortunately the homoeopathic profession was not united at that time. Why there was a division is not clear. It may have been due to different attitudes to Hahnemann’s theories but more probably was the result of Quin’s attitude to his colleagues. Certainly his insistence that only members of the British Homoeopathic Society could be appointed to the staff of the hospital in Soho played a part.

In 1835 Mr Leaf, a well to do merchant and supporter of homoeopathy, invited Dr. Paul Curie in 1835 to come from Paris as medical officer to a dispensary, which he founded in Finsbury Square, London. Curie, the grandfather of Pierre Curie of radium fame, was regarded as a brilliant homoeopath and teacher. Unfortunately he had been a follower of Broussais who regarded all disease as deriving from the gastrointestinal system. He believed in strict dieting. A scandal arose when one of Curie’s patients died apparently from starvation. However this did not stop Curie who founded the first school of homoeopathy in Britain. In 1850 several doctors including Curie founded the Hahnemann Hospital in Bloomsbury, London, with its associated medical society the Hahnemann Medical Society and its lay counterpart the English Homoeopathic Association. Unfortunately Curie caught typhus from a patient and died in 1853 and the hospital closed shortly afterwards. This led to the unification of the homoeopathic medical profession.

Although the London Homoeopathic Hospital in Golden Square, Soho, was ready for patients in October 1849, this was too late for the cholera epidemic of that year. In 1854, when another epidemic threatened, the Governors of the hospital decided to devote the hospital solely to cholera, for the duration of that epidemic. As a result 90 patients were treated. In addition Camphor was distributed free to the local population with instructions for its use as a prophylactic and as a first stage treatment.

The Board of Health had issued strict instructions for the notification of all cases of cholera and of diarrhoea together with details of treatment and of the outcome. The homoeopathic hospital duly submitted its returns, but to its surprise its results which were far superior to those of conventional hospitals, were omitted from the official report on the epidemic when published in 1855. The area of London where the hospital was situated was one where the epidemic was at its worst. It was the site of Dr. John Snow’s famous efforts to remove the handle of the pump in Broad Street, resulting in an immediate reduction in cases. Patients from this area went to only two hospitals, the Homoeopathic and the Middlesex. For the 90 cases treated at the Homoeopathic Hospital there was a death rate of 19%. [Of the 61 cases, the subject of the complaint to the House of Commons, see below, the rate was even lower at 16.4%.] In contrast the death rate at the Middlesex was 52.35% and elsewhere it was as high as 65%.

The British Homoeopathic Society sought the help of Lord Robert Grosvenor, a Member of Parliament sympathetic to homoeopathy. Following a question asked by him in the House of Commons, the homoeopathic results were published, demonstrating the superiority of the system of treatment.

The Expansion of Homoeopathy
In that same decade pressure mounted for the registration of medical practitioners. Opponents of homoeopathy hoped to preclude its supporters from registering and therefore from practising. The Registration Bill was drafted in such a way that any degree granting body could refuse graduation to anyone whose views it disliked. Dr. Robert Dudgeon discovered this only two days before the bill was to go through its final stages. He was a polymath, editor of the British Journal of Homeopathy and a prolific writer on the subject. Together with Lord Robert Grovesnor, by then Baron Ebury, and another peer, he was able to draft a clause, which limited the power of colleges. This appeared so innocuous that it went through on the nod. Sir James Y Simpson, the Scottish obstetrician who introduced Chloroform, was homoeopathy’s leading opponent at the time; although sitting in the public gallery he was quite unaware of what had happened.

Despite this opposition homoeopathy spread steadily throughout the country. By 1880 every major town had its dispensary while in many there was a hospital. Homoeopathic hospitals varied in size from the ‘cottage’, with 3 or 4 beds, to the major hospital of 100 or more beds and provision for surgery and the other specialities.

Supporters of homoeopathy were originally the aristocracy but later in the 19th century it was the rich upper middle classes who provided the funds and the political support. Some of the larger hospitals were provided by businessmen. Thus, the Liverpool Hahnemann Hospital was built and paid for by Sir Henry Tate, a millionaire sugar importer. The hospital in Bristol owed its existence to the tobacco manufacturers, Wills.

Royal patronage always played a part. Although, as mentioned Queen Adelaide used homoeopathy, neither Queen Victoria nor her son, King Edward VII, favoured it. This is surprising since Frederic Quin was a personal friend of Edward. However the Duchess of Cambridge, sister in law of William IV was converted and employed Quin as physician to her household. Her granddaughter Princess Mary of Teck became Queen Mary, when she married King George V. He appointed Dr. John Weir as royal physician and later knighted him. Thus homoeopathy was passed to the present Royal family.

The ‘Scientific Homoeopaths’
As the century progressed the attitude of British homoeopaths to Hahnemann’s theories changed; they increasingly refused to accept the psora theory and were very suspicious of high potencies. Robert Dudgeon and later Richard Hughes led the profession in low potency prescribing. There were of course exceptions, notably JHC Clarke and Compton Burnett who remained ‘classical’ homoeopaths. But as early as 1853 Dudgeon gave lectures which decried the idea of dynamic increase of power with dilution and succussion. While these doctors had to accept the 30th potency and even the 200th, they regarded as nonsense the M potencies that were being produced in America.

Alternation of potencies became commonplace. In the clinical records of the London Homoeopathic Hospital, which have fortunately been preserved, Bryonia is frequently shown as being alternated with Aconite or Arsenicum in acute cases, usually in the 1x or 3x potency. Quantity also played a part and if a satisfactory action was not obtained with one globule per dose (usually given every 2 or 3 hours) then two or three might be given before a change of remedy was considered.

These doctors wanted to be united with the conventional profession. They were sympathetic to the new scientific developments of the time and made use of pathological advances as they arrived. Many medicines such as Aconite and Belladonna, which they used in potency, were absorbed into the conventional pharmacopoeia. As a consequence some doctors found it avoided trouble if they ceased to call themselves homoeopaths while continuing to use the remedies. Those who remained loyal had no compunction about prescribing conventional medicines such as Morphine and Iron, although in the latter case this might, illogically, be given in low potency for anaemia.

The Arrival of Kentian Philosophy
All this was to change early in the twentieth century with the arrival of the ideas of James Tyler Kent from America. Within little more than a decade there was a complete alteration in prescribing methods. Instead of low potencies, single doses of M potencies were used, after repertorisation; previously the repertory was almost unused. There was less concern for the conventional profession, for pathology and other medical advances. Dr. Richard Hughes, the great man of the late nineteenth century, was dismissed as a ‘pathological prescriber’ unworthy of consideration. Homoeopathy became a small isolated sect cut off from mainstream medicine, and supported in the main by a cadre of ‘homoeopathic families’ who provided both the doctors and the patients.

But the homoeopathic medical profession had to provide a full medical service. For example at the turn of the century tuberculosis was a major fatal disease. James Compton Burnett claimed to have discovered Tuberculinum, as a treatment for it, fifteen years before Koch introduced Tuberculin. Homoeopaths used Tuberculinum in the form of Bacillinum for their cases with limited success. It seemed to work in acute cases but was of little use in caseous lung disease. However it proved successful in associated conditions such as tonsils and adenoids.

Tuberculin was similarly limited in success and, because it was toxic, the dosage was progressively reduced so that eventually it was being utilised in homoeopathic doses. Homoeopaths started to use Tuberculinum first, but if that failed they turned to Tuberculin. It is difficult to make any real estimate of its efficacy because it became superseded by sanatorium treatment. As this happened, fewer and fewer cases were referred to homoeopaths, the patients’ disposal being controlled by the Public Health regulations.

The advent of Kentian ideas can be said to have been almost solely due to Dr. Margaret Tyler. She induced her parents, who served on the committees of the London Homoeopathic Hospital, to provide money for scholarships enabling doctors to study in Chicago under Kent. She qualified in medicine in 1903 at the age of 44 and served on the staff of the hospital until her death forty years later. She specialised in retarded children but her great contribution was teaching. She lectured, she ran a correspondence course, and edited a journal which could be used as a textbook. But she is best known for her ‘Drug Pictures’, which simplified the materia medica for students.

However she did not entirely succeed in keeping British homoeopathy tied to the Swedenborgian mysticism of Kent. C.J.Wheeler and others accepted his method of selection of the remedy while moving away from his philosophy. But the idea of the single constitutional remedy has remained the norm to this day.

The Faculty of Homoeopathy
In 1943 the British Homoeopathic Society reformed as the Faculty of Homoepathy. It developed an academic organisation and started a diploma in homoeopathic medicine. This became the basis of full membership. The examination increased in difficulty so that it became a specialist qualification. It is now forming the basis of a proposed European qualification. More recently, owing much to the work of the Scottish branch of the Faculty, a new qualification has been introduced for GPs who are interested but do not wish to go on to full specialist training.

Within a short time of its formation the Faculty was faced with the question of how homoeopathy, and particularly the homoeopathic hospitals of which five remained in existence, was to be integrated into the new National Health Service. After protracted discussions with the Ministry it was agreed that these hospitals would be treated in the same way as conventional hospitals. Equally important, it was agreed that homoeopathic remedies would be prescribable by all NHS doctors.

Recent Developments
This agreement did not, unfortunately, cause the conventional profession to view expenditure upon homoeopathy as justified. Of the five hospitals, three have been reduced in size. The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, which moved to its present site in Great Ormond Street in 1859, was replaced the end of the 19th century with a purpose built hospital with state of the art medical and surgical departments. It survived as an independent hospital in the NHS but was starved of funds for years. It lost its surgical departments and has had to offer other forms of complimentary medicine in addition to homoeopathy. In contrast the Scottish hospital, by a sustained effort of teaching, research and by demonstrating its value for money, has succeeded in obtaining the funds necessary to have a new building constructed.

But another factor has affected the situation. In the last ten years, the demand from the general public for homoeopathy has noticeably increased. In addition the conventional medical profession is taking a much more favourable view. While some managers seek to employ non- medically qualified practitioners, because they are cheaper than doctors, the risks of so doing have been explained to them. (In Britain, anyone without any training whatever can practise medicine provided there is no claim to be a doctor or attempt to prescribe dangerous drugs.). The future for homoeopathy itself seems secure.”

26 February 2008

Classic homeopathic authors: Rajan Sankaran

Homeopathy has benefitted greatly through the further development of homeopathic philosophy from the practice and study of contemporary Indian homeopath Dr Rajan Sankaran.

In ‘The Spirit of Homeopathy’ (1991) Sankaran describes how rather than analysing cases in a mechanical rule-bound manner he found that a “remedy represents a particular situation and that each patient’s state comes from a particular situation in the past, in which the components of his present state were necessary”.

Chapter 6: Health and Disease: Psychological and Philosophical Considerations

“Disease consists of two parts: generalised disturbance of the whole organism and localised problems. It can be seen that generalised disturbance (which includes physical, general and psychological changes) precedes localisation of the problem.  this generalized disturbance is probably what Hans Selye (the authority on stress) described as the General Adaptation Syndrome.  The whole of this generalized disturbance or change can be understood as a posture of adaptation for survival in a particular situation.  It is obvious that if the situation does exist or is intense enough, such an adaptation would ensure survival and therefore, cannot be treated.  Conversely, if such a situation does not exist, or is not proportionately intense, this general adaptation would be a maladaptation and needs to be corrected.

 Disease as a posture

 In sum, disease is a posture, a state of being, which is suitable and appropriate in a particular situation, a situation that does not exist at present.  Disease originates from severe situations which demand this posture or state of being for survival. This state leaves an impression which we call a root which gets activated later on.

Disease sets up several conditions for feeling OK.  When we imagine a lion is chasing us we will not feel OK unless we are running. In the same way, if your disease originated in the situation where you needed to achieve in order to be loved or to survive you will not feel OK unless you achieve.  These conditions restrict your being in the present and your reacting to the situation appropriately.  The miser’s constant need is to check his purse.  He will do this even when visiting the Taj Mahal, rather than admiring its beauty.

Disease is a restriction of vision, it is a narrow way of looking at things. Only awareness of this delusion can remove it, just as light removes darkenss.  Delusion disappears only with awareness. 

All this talk may sound esoteric and theoretical unless the reader looks at himself in the light of what he has understood so far.  If you honestly look at yourself, you will see how you feel uncomfortable in many situations and how you cling to certain roles in which you feel OK.  These situations in which you feel OK fulfil your conditions for feeling OK.  You are compelled to act in a particular way even though some other type of action is appropriate. In most situations you have the option of deciding how to react, but always you almost choose to react in just one or two ways, no matter what the situation is.  This fixed type of reaction, compulsion, comes from the fixed way you view yourself and the situation in front of you (obsession).  Both the obsession and the compulsion come from the perception you have of yourself in the situation; this is your basic delusion.

Somewhere in the past or in earlier generation you will find that somebody had gone through a situation which necessitated this kind of behaviour.   You may find more often than not that you were conceived when one of your parents was exactly passing through such a state of being, or such a situation might have originated sometime in your childhood, especially from the circumstances in your own family.”

‘The Spirit of Homeopathy’ was followed by ‘The Substance of Remedies’(1994) and  ‘The Soul of Remedies’ (1997) which conveyed the innermost feeling of remedies which he had observed and confirmed in his own practice.  Here is a short part of his description of Arsenicum:

“The Arsenicum patient sees the world as threatening, chaotic.  He feels that he is old, weak and defenseless, and that there are thieves all around him, ready to take advantage of his weakness. He needs people and is dependent on them because of his weakness, yet feels that they cannot be trusted, that they are interested only in his money.  However he cannot do without them, and hence is very careful that he should not offend them, lest they leave him and go away.  He is mistrustful and suspicious, cautious and anxious in all matters: money, relationships, even health.”

Dr Sankaran has continued to develop his observations of the central disturbance and the determining characteristics of groups of remedies and are read with interest by homeopaths world-wide.

24 February 2008

Classic homeopathic authors: Herbert A. Roberts M.D.

My favourite book on the philosophy of homeopathy is ‘The Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy – A Modern Textbook’ by Herbert A. Roberts (1936).

The foreword gives the following biographical information: ‘We know he was born in 1868 and was still living in 1954, that he was a pupil of Stuart Close, that he practised in Connecticut, that he was Chairman of the American Federation for homoeopathy and Head of the Department of Philosophy at their post-graduate school, that he was at one time President of the International Hahnemann Association, that he was editor of the Homoeopathic Recorder, and that he was also the author of the The Principles and Practicability of Boenninghausen’s Pocket Book, Sensations As If, and Rheumatic Remedies. ‘

Here he introduces the study of homeopathy:

“If a physician would successfully practice medicine he must know, first, what is curable by medicine, and second, what is curative in drugs.

The physician must know something of the history of the development of the drug action; of the gradual experiments with the remedial substance upon healthy human beings and the data gathered therefrom over a long period of careful observations, which have been checked and verified again and again, both in experimental provings and in clinical use.  The basis upon which this knowledge of drug action is built is a profound and a basic element of homoeopathic procedure.

By the time the physician has become somewhat acquainted with these guides he is in a position to go forward and erect the structure of his future medical career upon a basis that is immovable, that does not change with every new theory that arises upon the medical horizon.  If we look thoughtfully at medical literature over a period of years we find it one kaleidoscopic panorama of ever-changing theory and practice.

Homoeopathy, on the other hand, is ever capable of development, while the principles remain the same.  Homoeopathy is founded upon principles that are again founded upon natural laws.  These natural laws are basic, they are more eternal than the hills, for these laws were formulated before the hills came into being.

 If a man follows where homoeopathy leads he must be able to follow those laws and to hold close to them, regardless of pressure or influence.  On the other hand, the very principles which he follows stabilise him and make him sure in his work.  This stability can be maintained equally well in chronic work, in acute cases or amidst the panics of epidemics of unknown origin, such as influenza, poliomyelistis; outbreaks of such conditions as encephalitis; for here, as in all other manifestations of illness, the fundamental laws remain firm and intact, and they are sufficiently basic to provide a sure guide to health.”

23 February 2008

Classic homeopathic authors: Catherine R. Coulter.

Catherine R. Coulter is well known and respected in homeopathic circles for her three volumes of ‘Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines.  Psychophysical Analyses of Selected Constitutional Types’, the first being published in 1998.

Here she defines constitutional remedy:

“In homoeopathy the expression, “constitutional remedy”, signifies the medicinal substance which encompasses the sum total of the individual’s physical, emotional, and mental picture.  Homoeopathy denies any inherent or qualitative distinction between these, assuming that all processes within the organism are interdependent.  Physical illnesses (apart from accidents and injuries) have a mental aspect, while mental illnesses have a physical aspect, and the prescription of medicines must be based upon a consideration of both categores of symptoms.  A patient is said to be a Phosphorous, a Silica, a Pulsatilla or some other type, according to the constitutional remedy which most closely approximates his total picture.  To find this constitutional remedy the physician not only records painful sensations, symptoms, pathology, and the like, but also how the patient looks and behaves when in health, what he says, how he responds, his temperament and disposition, strengths and weaknesses.  After collection, arranging and evaluating these characteristics, he matches them to the remedy which most expresses this “wholeness” of the patient.  Espousing this truly holistic approach, each chapter of this work describes the relationship between a given type’s physical emotional and mental patterns when viewed in their dynamic interaction.”

In the book her observations of each constitutional type is expanded over many pages but here is my very brief summary of her ‘prominent characteristics’ of Lycopodium:

“The following analysis will focus on four prominent Lycopodium characteristics: his resilient self-esteem, his unshakeable viability, his imperturbable detachment and the Achilles heel of this highly capable individual – his tendency to deceive himself.

The first striking Lycopodium characteristic is self-esteem.  It is seen in the quiet air of one who is self-possessed and obviously has a good opinion of himself.  He has confidence in his own judgment, believing that he knows best at all times.   He considers himself an example of moderation and reasonableness others would do well to follow.  He is convinced the world would be a far, far better place if it contained more right-thinking and right-acting persons like himself.

Lycopodium‘s viability (enormous tenacity for survival) stems from his resolute yet conforming nature which permits him to adapt to fluctuating times and circumstances while pursuing his own policies.  He likes wielding power and even while wanting to please everyone, needs to be honored or acknowledged as a leader.

Lycopodium needs to feel detached at almost all times and at almost any cost. Aloof from the turmoils of earth, he likes to float somewhere above struggling humanity, unruffled and unperturbed, regarding it from the lofty perspective of his detachment.

Lycopodium’s fourth prominent characteristic, self-deception is the natural outgrowth of his self-esteem, viability and detachment. To preserve these three, the individual may resort to deceiving himself.  Few types are so adept at blanking out undesirable realities and concealing from themselves what they do not want to admit.”

19 February 2008

Homeopathic ‘placebo’: much more effective than conventional medicine’s placebo

Laughing my socks off’s comment on blog entry ‘Socking hypocrisy in anti-cam campaign’ :

GSK’s Allen Roses says 90% of pharmaceutical drugs are only effective in 30-50% of cases. BMJ Clinical Evidence says only somewhere between 26-34% of 2,500 commonly used treatments have some proven benefit. The Bristol study [Bristol Homeopathic Hospital] concluded 70%+ of patients reported some improvement with homeopathic treatment. The Berlin study came up with similar percentages and concluded that patients using homeopathy had better outcomes than patients using conventional medicine. Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital’s ongoing audits of patient response return similar percentages.

It’s worth emphasising that while controls might be absent in these studies, the patient cohorts tend to have a high percentage (80%+) of chronic complaints of which an equally high percentage (80%+) have failed to respond to conventional treatment. If they failed to respond to conventional treatment, in which the placebo effect is likely to be considerably stronger than in homeopathy, then it’s reasonable to suggest that these are patients who are not particularly susceptible to placebo response. If they failed to respond to conventional treatment, then it’s reasonable to suggest that for these patients, homeopathy proved to be the more effective option.”

18 February 2008

Water research scientist’s view of homeopathy

Martin Chaplin BSc PhD CChem FRSC Professor of Applied Science, Water and Aqueous Systems Research, London South Bank University has this to say about Homeopathy which I extract and highlight here:

Re Jacques Benveniste’s research

“A controversial paper in Nature [132] containing data from several laboratories, claiming to prove the efficacy of extreme dilution (the ‘memory of water‘ [1112])a has not been generally accepted after the results were reported as not reproducible under closely controlled and observed (by Nature’s self-acknowledged biased observers), but strained, overly-demanding and unsympathetic, conditions with negative results from only one laboratory being cherry-picked from amongst otherwise positive results [133]. The original results [132] were, however, confirmed in a blinded study by the statistician Alfred Spira [346e] and also in a rather bizarre Nature paper purporting to prove the opposite [346b],b and were subsequently comprehensively confirmed by a blinded multi-center trial [346a]. In spite of this apparent confirmation by several laboratories, there are still doubts over whether the experiments are truly reproducible and whether the noted effects may be due to the origin of the biological samples or human operator effects [1362].”

Re structural change from potentisation, the effect of glassware and thermoluminescence: 

“A thorough investigation into the structural differences previously reported between homeopathically potentized (that is, succussed and extremely diluted) and unpotentized nitric acid solutions showed that the effect was lost or changed if different glassware was used [495]. Changes in the thermoluminescence of ice produced from ultra-diluted water have been noted [500a] but can be explained by remaining trace amounts of material (due to poor mixing, impurities, absorption, nanobubbles (that is, nanocavities) [500d] or other causes) being concentrated between ice crystals [500b]; an explanation supported by later work [500c].”

Re meta-analyses and The Lancet:

“Meta-analysis of 89 placebo-controlled trials failed to prove either that homeopathy was efficacious for any single clinical condition OR that its positive clinical effects could entirely be due to a placebo effect [121a], thus leaving the scientific door open both ways. A further analysis of this data, however, indicated that some of these studies may have failed to avoid bias and that studies using better methodology yielded the less positive effects [121b]. It should also be noted that placebo effects constitute real clinical effects [121c], should be judged positively and probably account for a significant proportion of the success of prevailing established medicine. A recent analytical review has reinforced the, more negative, view concerning the clinical effectiveness of homeopathic remedies [527]. Further, a recent quality assessment of published experiments on homeopathic preparations has concluded that many were performed with inadequate controls [651]. ”

Re television investigations: 

“Although a scientific trial of homeopathy conducted for the BBC and similar work reported on ABC News’ 20/20 program both failed to show any homeopathic effect, the experiments they reported have been subject to serious criticism including that of careless scientific methodology. In August 2005 [840], the medical journal ‘The Lancet’ controversially argued for halting any further research into homeopathy concluding it has no effect other than as a placebo. This judgment was based on a comparative study of 110 matched placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and conventional medicine [841]. The conclusion was reached, however, in spite of the study apparently showing little evidence of differences between the two groups (homeopathy and conventional) when all the data was considered. There were differences when a tiny percentage of unmatched larger trials were cherry-picked for further analysis (that is, 102/110 of the homeopathy studies and 104/110 of the conventional studies were discarded).c The remaining 6% of the studies, however, still showed positive (if not conclusive, possibly as the number of trials left in this final grouping was so small) evidence in favor of a homeopathic effect over placebo. Although this study has come in for considerable and rightful criticism, as above and [1381, 1382], it is often put forward in support of the view that homeopathy works no better than as a placebo, a fact that it clearly does not deliver.”

Re bias: 

“Many laugh homeopathy out of serious consideration as a clinical practice, sometimes resorting to unscientific, unbalanced and unrefereed editorial diatribe. One of the main reasons concerning this disbelief in the efficacy of homeopathy lies in the difficulty in understanding how it might work. If an acceptable theory was available then more people would consider it more seriously. However, it is difficult at present to sustain a theory as to why a truly infinitely diluted aqueous solution, consisting of just H2O molecules, should retain any difference from any other such solution. It is even more difficult to put forward a working hypothesis as to how small quantities of such ‘solutions’ can act to elicit a specific response when confronted with large amounts of complex solution in a subject. A major problem in this area is that, without a testable hypothesis for the generally acknowledged potency of homeopathy, there is a growing possibility of others making fraudulent claims in related areas, as perhaps evidenced by the increasing use of the internet to advertise ‘healthy’ water concentrates using dubious (sometimes published but irreproducible) scientific and spiritual evidence.”

Re possible explanation for homeopathy:

“A key feature of any difference between water before and after its use in preparing homeopathic dilutions is likely to be the vigorous shaking (succussion) that must be carried out between successive dilutions, and which may produce significantly increased concentrations of silicate, sodium and bicarbonate ions [335, 1207] by dissolution of the glass tubes and increases in nanobubbles and redox molecules [1066] from the atmosphere, respectively.

How water may show a memory is explored further in the ‘memory of water’ page

16 February 2008

Homeopathy myths: It’s ‘just water’:2

The Homeopathy Research Institute  observes: ‘Opponents of homeopathy often refer to the simplicity of the water molecule as a key argument why homeopathy cannot work. “It’s just water!” they say’ and comment ‘It’s hard to realise just how complex a substance water really is’:

From London South Bank University “Water Structure and Science” by Martin Chaplin

Water Anomalies

Water is an apparently simple molecule (H2O) with a highly complex character. As a gas it is one of lightest known, as a liquid it is much denser than expected and as a solid it is much lighter than expected. Much of the behavior of liquid water is quite different from what is found with other liquids, giving rise to the term ‘the anomalous properties of water’. a

As liquid water is so common-place in our everyday lives, it is often regarded as a ‘typical’ liquid. In reality water is most atypical as a liquid, behaving as a quite different material at low temperatures to that when it is hot. It has often been stated (for example, [127]) that life depends on these anomalous properties of water. In particular, the large heat capacity, high thermal conductivity and high water content in organisms contribute to thermal regulation and prevent local temperature fluctuations, thus allowing us to more easily control our body temperature. The high latent heat of evaporation gives resistance to dehydration and considerable evaporative cooling. Water is an excellent solvent due to its polarity, high dielectric constant and small size, particularly for polar and ionic compounds and salts.b It has unique hydration properties towards biological macromolecules (particularly proteins and nucleic acids) that determine their three-dimensional structures, and hence their functions, in solution. This hydration forms gels that can reversibly undergo the gel-sol phase transitions that underlie many cellular mechanisms [351]. Water ionizes and allows easy proton exchange between molecules, so contributing to the richness of the ionic interactions in biology.

At 4°C water expands on heating OR cooling. This density maximum together with the low ice density results in (i) the necessity that all of a body of fresh water (not just its surface) is close to 4°C before any freezing can occur, (ii) the freezing of rivers, lakes and oceans is from the top down, so permitting survival of the bottom ecology, insulating the water from further freezing, reflecting back sunlight into space and allowing rapid thawing, and (iii) density driven thermal convection causing seasonal mixing in deeper temperate waters carrying life-providing oxygen into the depths. The large heat capacity of the oceans and seas allows them to act as heat reservoirs such that sea temperatures vary only a third as much as land temperatures and so moderate our climate (for example, the Gulf stream carries tropical warmth to northwestern Europe). The compressibility of water reduces the sea level by about 40 m giving us 5% more land [65]. Water’s high surface tension plus its expansion on freezing encourages the erosion of rocks to give soil for our agriculture.

Notable amongst the anomalies of water are the opposite properties of hot and cold water, with the anomalous behavior more accentuated at low temperatures where the properties of supercooled water often diverge from those of hexagonal ice.c As cold liquid water is heated it shrinks, it becomes less easy to compress, its refractive index increases, the speed of sound within it increases, gases become less soluble and it is easier to heat and conducts heat better. In contrast as hot liquid water is heated it expands, it becomes easier to compress, its refractive index reduces, the speed of sound within it decreases, gases become more soluble and it is harder to heat and a poorer conductor of heat. With increasing pressure, cold water molecules move faster but hot water molecules move slower. Hot water freezes faster than cold water and ice melts when compressed except at high pressures when liquid water freezes when compressed. No other material is commonly found as solid, liquid and gas.d

The anomalies of water appear as a heirarchy of effects with different bounds [169]. These are shown indicatively opposite as derived from modeling, not experimental data. The ‘Structural’ bounds indicate where water is more disordered when compressed, the ‘Dynamic’ bounds indicate where diffusion increases with density, and the ‘Thermodynamic’ bounds show where there is a temperature of maximum density; with the data from [169] shifted upwards 38 K to give the correct temperature of maximum density under standard pressure. As density always increases with increasing pressure, a similar relationship holds with pressure along the horizontal axis. Heirarchy of anomalies, based on SPC/E model of Ref. 169. This graph is indicative only and does not show experimental points

Water phase anomalies e

  1. Water has unusually high melting point. [Explanation]
  2. Water has unusually high boiling point. [Explanation]
  3. Water has unusually high critical point. [Explanation]
  4. Solid water exists in a wider variety of stable (and metastable) crystal and amorphous structures than other materials. [Explanation]
  5. The thermal conductivity of ice reduces with increasing pressure. [Explanation]
  6. The structure of liquid water changes at high pressure. [Explanation]
  7. Supercooled water has two phases and a second critical point at about -91°C. [Explanation]
  8. Liquid water is easily supercooled but glassified with difficulty. [Explanation]
  9. Liquid water exists at very low temperatures and freezes on heating. [Explanation]
  10. Liquid water may be easily superheated. [Explanation]
  11. Hot water may freeze faster than cold water; the Mpemba effect. [Explanation]
  12. Warm water vibrates longer than cold water. [Explanation]

Water density anomalies

  1. The density of ice increases on heating (up to 70 K). [Explanation]
  2. Water shrinks on melting. [Explanation]
  3. Pressure reduces ice’s melting point. [Explanation]
  4. Liquid water has a high density that increases on heating (up to 3.984°C). [Explanation]
  5. Pressure reduces the temperature of maximum density. [Explanation]
  6. There is a minimum in the density of supercooled water. [Explanation]
  7. Water has a low coefficient of expansion (thermal expansivity). [Explanation]
  8. Water’s thermal expansivity reduces increasingly (becoming negative) at low temperatures. [Explanation]
  9. Water’s thermal expansivity increases with increased pressure. [Explanation]
  10. The number of nearest neighbors increases on melting. [Explanation]
  11. The number of nearest neighbors increases with temperature. [Explanation]
  12. Water has unusually low compressibility. [Explanation]
  13. The compressibility drops as temperature increases up to 46.5°C. [Explanation]
  14. There is a maximum in the compressibility-temperature relationship. [Explanation]
  15. The speed of sound increases with temperature up to 74°C. [Explanation]
  16. The speed of sound may show a minimum. [Explanation]
  17. ‘Fast sound’ is found at high frequencies and shows an discontinuity at higher pressure. [Explanation]
  18. NMR spin-lattice relaxation time is very small at low temperatures. [Explanation]
  19. The refractive index of water has a maximum value at just below 0°C. [Explanation]
  20. The change in volume as liquid changes to gas is very large. [Explanation]

Water material anomalies

  1. No aqueous solution is ideal. [Explanation]
  2. D2O and T2O differ significantly from H2O in their physical properties. [Explanation]
  3. Liquid H2O and D2O differ significantly in their phase behavior. [Explanation]
  4. Solutes have varying effects on properties such as density and viscosity. [Explanation]
  5. The solubilities of non-polar gases in water decrease with temperature to a minimum and then rise. [Explanation]
  6. The dielectric constant of water is high. [Explanation]
  7. The dielectric constant shows a temperature maximum. [Explanation]
  8. Proton and hydroxide ion mobilities are anomalously fast in an electric field. [Explanation]
  9. The electrical conductivity of water rises to a maximum at about 230°C. [Explanation]
  10. Acidity constants of weak acids show temperature minima. [Explanation]
  11. X-ray diffraction shows an unusually detailed structure. [Explanation]
  12. Under high pressure water molecules move further away from each other with increasing pressure. [Explanation]

Water thermodynamic anomalies

  1. The heat of fusion of water with temperature exhibits a maximum at -17°C. [Explanation]
  2. Water has over twice the specific heat capacity of ice or steam. [Explanation]
  3. The specific heat capacity (CP and CV) is unusually high. [Explanation]
  4. The specific heat capacity CP has a minimum at 36°C. [Explanation]
  5. The specific heat capacity (CP) has a maximum at about -45°C. [Explanation]
  6. The specific heat capacity (CP) has a minimum with respect to pressure. [Explanation]
  7. The heat capacity (CV) has a maximum. [Explanation]
  8. High heat of vaporization. [Explanation]
  9. High heat of sublimation. [Explanation]
  10. High entropy of vaporization. [Explanation]
  11. The thermal conductivity of water is high and rises to a maximum at about 130°C. [Explanation]

Water physical anomalies

  1. Water has unusually high viscosity. [Explanation]
  2. Large viscosity increase as the temperature is lowered. [Explanation]
  3. Water’s viscosity decreases with pressure below 33°C. [Explanation]
  4. Large diffusion decrease as the temperature is lowered. [Explanation]
  5. At low temperatures, the self-diffusion of water increases as the density and pressure increase. [Explanation]
  6. The thermal diffusivity rises to a maximum at about 0.8 GPa. [Explanation]
  7. Water has unusually high surface tension. [Explanation]
  8. Some salts give a surface tension-concentration minimum; the Jones-Ray effect. [Explanation]
  9. Some salts prevent the coalescence of small bubbles. [Explanation]

Anomalies of water graph


Some of the anomalies of water related to temperature.

The graph uses data that have been scaled between their maximum and minimum values (see original data).

a   Whether or not the properties of water are seen to be anomalous depends upon which materials water is to be compared and the interpretation of ‘anomalous’. For example, it could well be argued that water possesses exactly those properties that one might deduce from its structure (see for example, [402]). Other tetrahedrally interacting liquids, such as liquid Si, SiO2 and BeF2 have many similar ‘anomalies’. Comparisons between water, liquid sodium, argon and benzene appear to Franks [112] to indicate several of the properties given above as not being anomalous. However, these materials are perhaps not the most typical of liquids. My list gives the unusual properties generally understood to make liquid water (and ice) stand out from ‘typical’ liquids (or solids). See [242] for a review concentrating on the non-anomalous properties of water; that is, those that are the ‘same’ as for other liquids. [Back]b    It is therefore very difficult to obtain really pure water (for example, < 5 ng g-1). For a review of aqueous solubility prediction, see [744]. Note that ice, in contrast, is a very poor solvent and this may be made use of when purifying water (for example, degassing) using successive freeze-thaw cycles. [Back]c    Some scientists attribute the low temperature anomalous nature of water to the presence of a second critical point; an interesting if somewhat unproductive hypothesis as a sole explanation (as the attribution mixes cause with effect). Water’s anomalies do not require this as an explanation. [Back]d    The temperature range of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ water varies in these examples; see the individual entries for details. [Back]e    The anomalies of water are divided into groups but, clearly, some anomalies may be included under more than one topic and there may not be universal agreement for the groupings shown. [Back]Re skeptic comments: links to and brief summaries of peer-reviewed articles or reasonable blogs discussing the above will be accepted. H4H.  


13 February 2008

Homeopathy myths: it’s ‘just water’

The Homeopathy Research Institute  (aims: ‘To perform and promote innovative research of the highest scientific standard in the field of homeopathy.  To enable and encourage communication between the scientific community, the medical profession, professional homeopaths, the media and the public at large’)

reports in its February newsletter:


It’s not ‘just’ water

“It’s hard to realise just how complex a substance water really is.  Water is everywhere; it covers 2/3 of the earth’s surface and makes up 60-70% of the human body.  In our daily life, we only know water as either a liquid, ice or vapour. However upon closer inspection, scientists have catalogued 15 different types of ice1, which can be admired in the intricate designs of snow flakes and the amazing pictures of water crystals taken by Dr Imoto2This complexity is due to the precise structure of the water molecule, making water one of the most complex substances known to science3.

Opponents of homeopathy often refer to the simplicity of the water molecule as a key argument why homeopathy cannot work. “It’s just water!” they say.  However this is not the case as has now been shown by several fields of science outside of homeopathy4.

In the field of toxicology there is a known and documented phenomenon known as ‘hormesis’4A substance showing hormesis has the property that it has the opposite effect in small doses, than in large doses.  This supports the use of tautopathy, where homeopathic doses of a toxin are given to accelerate the detoxification of that same toxin (e.g. Arsenic).

Furthermore, in the field of material sciences, there is a phenomenon known as ‘epitaxis’.  This phenomenon is used in the industrial manufacture of semiconductors for microprocessors.  Epitaxy refers to the transfer of structural information from one substance to another, which can happen at the interface between the two substances.  This transfer of structure information can remain after the original substance has disappeared from the system.  This is very similar to the theory of homeopathic dilutions, the only difference being that epitaxy is known to happen in crystaline materials but not in liquids such as water5.

More recently, experiments using the light emission spectrum (Raman and Ultra-Violet-Visible spectroscopy) of homeopathic water vs normal water have shown that homeopathically prepared water has a different molecular structure than normal water6.  Although these are preliminary results they do indicate that homeopathic remedies are not ‘just water’, something has remained of the originally diluted substance.

Finally I want to return to the work of the late Dr Benveniste (1935-2004).  Benveniste’s original publication in 1988 in Nature7 – science’s most prestigious journal – created outrage in the scientific community all over the world.  It showed that dilutions beyond Avogadro’s number (behond which there is no trace of the original substance left in the solution, corresponding to –12C) have a reproducible biological effect onliving cells.  The scandal eventually let do Benveniste having to resign from his position as director of the CNRS, France’s main governmental science agency.  It is reassuring that his results have since then been reproduced and confirmed, showing that indeed highly (homeopathically) diluted substances retain a biological activity akin to that of the substance in its crude form8-9.

In this brief overview of the science of water I hope I have managed to convey some of the strong scientific arguments that support the theory of homeopathic dilutions and thus the validity of the homeopathic principle of potentisation.”

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ice

2. http://www.masaru-emoto.net and his books such as ‘Messages from water’.

3. http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/anmlies.html 

4. Mastrangelo D., (2007) ‘Hormesis, epitaxy, the structure of liquid water, and the science of homeopathy’. Med Sci Monit 13 (1):SR1-8.

5. Roy R. (2005) “The Structure of Liquid Water; Novel Insights from Materials Research; Potential Relevance to Homeopathy.” Material Research Innovations. 9 (4), pg 577-608.

6. Rao ML (2007) “The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy”. Homeopathy. 96 (3); 175-82

7. E Davenas & J Benveniste (1988). “Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE” Nature 816 – 818

8. Belon P. (1999) “Inhibition of human basophil degranulation by successive histamine dilutions: results of a European multi-centre trial.”, 48 Suppl 1: S17-8

9. Belon P etal (2004). “Histamine dilutions modulate basophil activation”. Inflamm Res. 53 (5):181-8

More discussion on water memory here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_memory

Interesting description of hormesis here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hormesis ‘The biochemical mechanisms by which hormesis works are not well understood. It is conjectured that a low dose challenge with a toxin may trigger certain repair mechanisms in the body, and these mechanisms, having been initiated, are efficient enough that they not only neutralize the toxin’s effect, but even repair other defects not caused by the toxin.’

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